What is Arts and Crafts Jewellery?

08/11/2017 803 0 0


A lot of the ideals of the Art Nouveau design movement were also shared by Arts and Crafts movement jewellers in Northern Europe,  Britain, and the United States. Both movements had deep roots in mid-19th century Britain. Two leading British cultural figures, the philosopher and designer William Morris and the art critic John Ruskin wrote about the dissatisfaction of many craftsmen and artists with industrialisation and the low quality goods it produced. Morris and Ruskin romanticised the medieval handicraft organisations believing that these groups maintained standards of good workmanship, and strongly encouraged creativity amongst their members.

Similar to Art Nouveau jewellers, Arts and Crafts Jewellers produced finely detailed jewellery including necklaces, bracelets, and brooches , and their work featured similar entwined and undulating lines. Materials such as enamel and silver appealed to them much more than more costly materials such as emeralds and gold. They also favoured the same enigmatic imagery as Art Nouveau jewellers, such as Viking ships, peacocks, and wistful maidens.

Archibald Knox Murrle Bennet turquoise brooch               Silver and enamel Archibald Knox brooch                            


The difference between noted Arts and Crafts Jewellers such as C.R.Ashbee, Edward Everett Oakes and Frank Gardener Hale and their Art Nouveau counterparts was that they strongly stressed the fact that their jewellery was entirely made by hand. To emphasis this they deliberately left hammer marks on silver surfaces , and produced grainy images in matt type enamel to display the integrity and honesty of their work in these materials. Silver was the favoured choice of metal of the Arts and Crafts jeweller. They also favoured the use of simple cabochon-cut stones such as moonstones, amethysts, and opals set in plain settings, as well as the use of irregularly shaped pearls.

Arts and Crafts jewellers looked to the distant heritage of Northern Europe for inspiration. The distinct knotted patterns of Celtic silversmiths and goldsmiths in particular had a strong effect on their designs. Another great source of inspiration was jewellery from the Middle Ages such as figurative enamel necklaces and pendants. In contrast to the pure sophistication of Art Nouveau jewellery designs, the Arts and Crafts pieces tended to  be lighter and simpler, lacking the sensuous quality of Art Nouveau designs.

Arthur Gaskin silver, enamel and opal brooch

Although Arts and Crafts jewellery was generally made from inexpensive materials, the workmanship and skill, that went into these handcrafted pieces still put them out of most peoples reach. However, various leading retailers and silver manufacturers at that time realised that the simplicity of the Arts and Crafts jewellery designs had a wider appeal.


Libertys department store in London had been well known for importing exotic goods from the Orient since the 1870's . Towards the end of the 19th century, the store was also commissioning particular products with artistic value from British manufacturers and designers.Various leading designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement created products for Liberty including Jessie M. King, and Arthur and Georgina Gaskin. Despite these items being produced using industrial technology, they offered sought after Arts and Crafts qualities without the expensive price tag. Archibald Knox was probably the most well known of all the silversmiths and jewellers designing for Liberty. He produced pendants, pins, and buckles with a strong Celtic flavour. His designs often feature muted coloured enamels and a whiplash motif.


Murrle Bennet and Co was another London business who took note of the Arts and Crafts style. Typical Murrle pendants, necklaces and pins had silver or gold mounts and were set with turquoise or blister pearls. The owner German jeweller Ernst Murrle had items made to his requirements by industrial manufacturers who could be relied upon for quality.